That time an event went TOO well. Thanks, Facebook.
This has taken me two years to write and even now, I feel very emotional about it. I wasn’t sure I’d ever write anything about this event. It was the day I almost quit organizing events and the day that I realized I was meant to do this. I learned about 100 lessons that day about operating a business.
Vendor Events can be hit and miss when it comes to attendance. You just never know if all the work you have put into an event will pan out until the day of the event and the customers start rolling in. Until that moment, you second guess every move you have made. Did I book the right vendors? Did I do enough advertising? Did I advertise in the right places? You get the drift.
Let me tell you about an event that went TOO well. How can that be? How could an event go too well? Keep reading, dear friend. It is the day that I call the best and worst day of my business life.
I booked an event at a new venue and I was excited at the prospects of what this event would turn out to be. I had been thinking about organizing an event in this city for ages and it was finally coming together, until it went kablooey (is that a word?).
I’m going to gloss over the months of event preparation with the exception of one facet and that is Facebook. I created a Facebook event as I do for all events. I’m still learning about the magic of algorithms and whatever Facebook does behind the scenes in order to select an event to showcase to the world. For all I know, they let a group of caffeinated adults throw darts at 30 different events and choose one to feature in the area.
A couple of months before the event I noticed that the numbers of people who had marked interested or going were starting to climb rapidly. Facebook picked it up and made it a Featured Event. That made me feel excited because it was growing by the hundreds every day and steadily into the thousands. I posted about how exciting it was because the interest was in the tens of thousands and people posted that they were going to come to the event and share it with their friends.
Now, let me say this – I had hoped that 1,000 people would turn up at the event. I’d have been thrilled as that would have broken my attendance record, so I encouraged people to share their event with friends and family and local connections. Eventually over 60,000 people were interested in the event (insert excitement and panic attack here) never thinking that that many people would actually turn up, they just marked it as interested in but wouldn’t actually come. Y’all, instead, it went VIRAL.
The morning of, it’s raining and cold. The vendors are rushing between raindrops to get their product unloaded and get their cars parked. The venue had helped me coordinate extra busses to transport people back and forth from the overflow parking to the event space, just in case we needed them. Everyone is excited to be there and then…..
We opened the doors at 9 am and all.hell.broke.loose.
People were coming in by the hundreds. The driveway and road leading to the venue was backed up and there were people who sat in their car for two hours in order to park and get into the venue. My greeters were literally running to keep up to welcome people into the event and hand out shopping bags. People were frustrated and tired and wet before they even set foot into the space or they were excited and treating it like this was a big party. We stopped counting how many had come through after 5,000 because we just couldn’t keep up.
The shopping commenced. Vendors were running out of product two hours into the event and calling friends and family for backup product. It was the best day of their lives. Practically all of them left completely out of stock. Many shoppers left very happy.
The others shoppers had a very different view – even though they chose to come to a free event at an upscale venue, they were angry. This is it? One room? Only 100 vendors? I came for THIS? Let me say, I was very transparent, as I always am, about the participating vendors at the event, but they had built it up to be something completely different other than a vendor event.
They all took to social media to vilify me as the worst person on the planet. Comments rolled in by the hundreds and all I could do was to shut off the commenting feature on the event and then hand my phone to someone else to delete the comments on the event that were horrible because they were the most vile things I had ever read. That’s what almost broke me. People were SO angry because they didn’t have what they had expected it to be and what 60,000 other people had expressed interest in.
In this case, Facebook grabbed onto the event and it taught me one hell of a lesson. Making sure you know your audience, for one and marketing directly to them in order to bring in the right people. It can take an event and make it amazing or an absolute disaster and depending on the person – the event can be a massive success or a huge failure.
It also taught me what I’m made of. It was the worst day of my business life. That was not my only event that season and I contemplated cancelling everything and just quitting my business. After a day, the comments started to go away and it seemed easier to press on with the next events. The rest of the events went very well and despite this huge massive mountain of a bump in my business, it pushed it to the next level and it has encouraged me to keep going with events because it is truly my passion – to help small businesses with growing their businesses.
I’m still going……